An All too Real Nightmare — A Halloween to Remember in 1962

civil defense 068 democrat oct. 24 1962

The county decided it needed a bomb shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cecil Democrat, Oct. 24, 1962

The end of October is normally a scary time in Cecil County as Halloween rolls around.  But an actual nightmare on the eve of the trick or treat season in 1962 caused people to shy away from ghosts and goblins.  Facing a dreadful reality, the world standing on the edge of a nuclear war, people decided they had enough frightening antics and scary tales, although the situation eased by the time the last two days of the month arrived.

George Prettyman, a columnist for the Cecil Democrat, wrote about those jittery days.  “Almost everything has become of scant importance since the president spoke on October 22 on the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Several times during the past few years it has seemed that we have been on the brink of war.  But all other crises pale in the light of the present one, for we are indeed dangerously – very dangerously – close to hostilities.  Every moment we remain disengaged from open warfare gives us a little more hope that the matter can be settled short of all-out, world-wide war.”  With a chill of that type in the papers, on television and in the air, nervous people weren’t in the mood for the mysterious and spooky or any other dark jolts.

civil defense 014aIt was the quietest in years, “virtually free from malicious mischief and vandalism,” Elkton Chief Thomas N. McIntire, Jr. reported.  Looking to bolster his patrols, given the normal antics, the county seat’s top cop called out the Civil Defense Auxiliary Police.  Already on high alert because of international tensions, it was easy for the chief of the CD force, Norton Sighman, to mobilize his resources. He detailed 27 men to take up positions throughout town for two days, and between the regular officers and the CD auxiliary the entire community was “under surveillance.”

Elkton’s annual Halloween parade, a popular event, was headed by Harry Cleaves in 1962.  It was a “huge success,” papers reported, although the floats and paraders seemed to be far fewer in number.

Sheriff Edgar Startt also reported that mischief night was observed quietly in rural Cecil.  He put all four of his regular deputies on patrol and had six extra men supplement the regular force.

Despite the heightened presence of lawmen and the frightening specter of mass destruction, pranksters in Rising Sun managed to pull off their traditional trick.  After a group prowled around the countryside and found a convenient outhouse, they promptly dragged it to the center of the town square.  There it stood under cover of a chilled October darkness. Police were looking for the owner of the privy.

Jittery residents weren’t looking for the creepy and kooky in 1962.

civil defense 096 nov 1 1962 whig

County Commissioners meet with state and federal officials to go over procedures for federal assistance in construction a bomb proof building to house Civil Defense and county records. Commissioners Howard Tome & Davie Raince attended the meeting. Source: Cecil Democrat, Nov. 1, 1962


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